Oak – the cooper's view

Oak trees stacked at Francois Freres cooperage

In the first of three articles this week about oak, Matthew Hayes shares the secrets of making, and selling, barrels. Above, François Frères' barrels-to-be.

Oak is a very small word with huge connotations, especially in Burgundy. When I started in the mad, bad world of international wine-broking, Burgundy was astir. It was the golden age of Robert Parker. Richness, extraction and power were all the rage everywhere. I remember being slightly shell-shocked at my first large tasting in Gevrey-Chambertin in 1998. Was this what burgundian delicacy was all about? The wines were not quite pea-soup, but certainly not...